House Majority Whip Tom Emmer’s (R-Minn.) Speakership nomination collapsed in extraordinary fashion Tuesday, surviving only four hours and showcasing the complete chaos enveloping the House GOP conference.
Emmer withdrew his name from the running shortly after winning a fifth-round nomination ballot amid a field of crowded candidates. He trounced six other GOP lawmakers to secure the conference’s nomination.
But minutes later, a contingent of Republicans made clear they would not back him on the House floor, making it virtually impossible for him to secure enough votes to win the gavel.
Making matters worse for Emmer, former President Trump released a scathing statement calling the majority whip a “Globalist RINO” and saying voting for him “would be a tragic mistake.”
For Emmer, known to his colleagues for being a hockey coach, the ice was too thin to skate on — and he announced his decision to withdraw his name from consideration Tuesday afternoon.
Now, the House GOP conference is being further plunged into the depths of the chaos of Republicans’ making as they revert to square one — again — with hopes of electing a new Speaker.
Emmer was the House GOP’s third nominee in as many weeks to fall short of the gavel as they have scrambled to find a replacement for former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). McCarthy was ousted in historic fashion Oct. 3 when eight Republicans, led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), joined with Democrats to remove him from the post.
The conference voted to drop Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) as its nominee last week following three failed attempts to win the gavel on the House floor. Before that, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) withdrew his name from the running just a day after his nomination amid staunch opposition from Jordan supporters.
It is unclear who, if anyone, can unite the slim GOP majority and earn the required 217 votes to win on the House floor.
“It’s a little hard to imagine how anybody could get elected at this point. And more importantly, if you care about our country, how anybody can govern effectively,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.).
“I think it is apparent to the American people that the GOP conference is hopelessly divided,” said Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), an Appropriations subcommittee chair, after Emmer bowed out. “Can it be overcome? Never say never. But the signs are right now that this conference is at some kind of an impasse.”
Assuming all House members are present and voting for a candidate, a Republican Speaker nominee can afford to lose only four votes if all Democrats support House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
As of press time, House Republicans were planning to hold another internal candidate forum Tuesday evening.
Emmer won the GOP nomination when he rose above a crowded field on Tuesday with eight candidates — emerging victorious on the fifth ballot. The final secret ballot came down to him and House GOP Vice Chair Mike Johnson (La.), whom he defeated in a 117-97 vote.
On the ballot before that, Republican Study Committee Chair Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) and Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) had tied for third place.
Jonson, Hern, and Donalds returned to seek the nomination Tuesday evening after Emmer’s collapse. And three new candidates entered the race: Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and a Freedom Caucus member; Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), a House Appropriations Subcommittee chair; and Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas).
And ahead of the forum, a new candidate entered the race: Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), chair of the House Homeland Security Committee and a Freedom Caucus member.
Another option for Republicans would be to empower Speaker Pro Tempore Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) to move legislation on the House floor. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio) has drafted a resolution to empower McHenry to move legislation on the House floor, and Rep. Mike Flood (R-Neb.) said he has a proposal to make McHenry the full-time Speaker until Nov. 30.
“This is a serious setback. And one thing I appreciate about Patrick McHenry is the guy pays attention to the process,” said Flood. “He pays attention to the rules. He’s doing it by the book, which nobody should expect anything less, and we will get there. It just will be more painful than we thought.”
The House GOP conference last week rejected a proposal to empower McHenry.
But a Nov. 17 government spending deadline is ticking ever closer amid the GOP turmoil, and supplemental funding requests for wars in Israel and Ukraine are also putting pressure on Republicans.
The crowded GOP field, as well as the five ballots it took Emmer to secure the nomination, showed he never had a commanding lead. And in a secondary roll call vote, 26 Republicans voted present or for another person, according to House GOP Conference Secretary Lisa McClain (R-Mich.).
Although many hard-liners have heaped praise on Emmer throughout the years for being an honest broker, some of Emmer’s policy stances have raised eyebrows among conservatives. He voted in favor of codifying same-sex marriage; in favor of spending bills and a debt limit deal that outraged hard-liners; and opposed votes on Jan. 6, 2021, objecting to 2020 election results.
“I like Tom Emmer a lot as a person, but I couldn’t support him as Speaker of the House. He didn’t object to Joe Biden’s electoral college vote,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). “He has a voting record I couldn’t support, most Republicans, conservative Republicans don’t support.”
One of his most notable GOP opponents was Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — who ran against Emmer for the Whip position last year.
Banks, who is now running for Senate, said his opposition was not personal.
“It’s all about policy. There are big policy differences,” Banks said before Emmer dropped out. “I’m a conservative. He’s not. I’m not going to vote for someone who’s not a conservative in the Speaker’s chair.”
Soon after Emmer’s nomination came Trump’s official opposition, and his allies mobilized against Emmer and reached out to lawmakers trying to sink his candidacy. Rep. Anna Paulina Luna (R-Fla.), who sources said was not among the 26 GOP members opposing Emmer in the validation vote, said on X, formerly Twitter, that she would not support Emmer on the House floor.
As Republicans prepared for yet another candidate forum ahead of picking a fourth nominee, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) joked with reporters that it may be time to bring adult beverages into the mix.
“I think they’re gonna have to bring alcohol in there to solve this. There’s some angry drunks that can fight it out. There some friendly drunks like me … but I don’t see this happening without alcohol,” Massie said.
Aris Folley, Rebecca Beitsch and Filip Timotija contributed.
Updated at 6:02 p.m.